|Subject: SMH: UN chief finds cache of illegal
Date: Sat, 19 Jun 1999 14:41:10 +0000
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
Sydney Morning Herald 18/06/99
UN chief finds cache of illegal militia weapons
By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent in Dili
The United Nations chief in East Timor, Mr Ian Martin, has personally investigated reports of villagers being abducted by pro-Jakarta militias in East Timor's violence-prone western district.
During a visit to Liquica yesterday, Mr Martin, who was accompanied by an Australian Federal police officer, Mr Steve Polden, came across an illegal militia training session and discovered a cache of homemade weapons.
"Obviously we [the UN] were not expecting to see a group of Besi Merah Putih [militia]) in training and to discover as we did - although they told us they had no weapons - there were weapons there," Mr Martin said. "That is something obviously we raised with the police."
Liquica, a small town about 25 kilometres west of the provincial capital, Dili, has been the scene of extensive militia activity, and a continuous problem for the UN. In recent months the militia have burnt houses, terrorised inhabitants and destroyed the property of suspected independence supporters. "Liquica is one of the regions from which we've had the greatest number of reports of violence and militia activity and that's why I wanted to come here," Mr Martin said.
He was also accompanied by several senior Indonesian army officers. In discussions with local authorities he raised the question of reports of Indonesian soldiers co-operating with the militia. He said there was a reluctance on the part of the authorities "to acknowledge all the information we have is correct".
The local district chief also denied UN claims concerning the number of internally displaced people in Liquica.
At a briefing earlier yesterday, the spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission to East Timor, Mr David Wimhurst, said: "The purpose of the trip is to look at the ongoing problem in Liquica of internally displaced people of which there are a large number in that area." He said they were also "very concerned" about reports that people were being forceably trucked out of their villages.
About 3,000 people are thought to have been displaced by recent militia violence in Liquica according to the UN refugee agency, raising serious concerns about their health and security.
Many of the attacks have been carried out by the Besi Merah Putih militia including one during the weekend of April 5-6 in which at least 25 people were killed.
If claims of widespread dislocation and abduction of villagers are proved, it could point to an ominous new strategy on the part of the pro-Jakarta militias.
Taking villagers out of their homes and relocating them in militia-controlled "refugee camps" will inevitably delay the key voter registration phase of the UN's mission here.
Voter registration is scheduled to start on June 22, a process expected to last 20 days, but privately diplomats and UN officials say that process is now likely to be delayed.
Voting for the UN-organised referendum is scheduled for August 8 but that date is also likely to be put back by at least three weeks.
Mr Martin is due to fly to Darwin today where he will brief a team of UN electoral volunteers and UN civilian police before flying to Canberra to meet senior Australian Government officials and hold more talks on the East Timor peace process.
The UN Secretary-General's envoy on East Timor, Mr Jamsheed Marker, is scheduled to arrive in Jakarta on Sunday to hold talks with senior Indonesian Government officials including the Foreign Minister, Mr Ali Alatas.
From Jakarta Mr Marker will fly to Canberra for briefings with Australian Government officials between July 4 and July 7.